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Rock Springs Accountant Sentenced to Jail For Filing Fake Tax Returns

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Wyoming taxes

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Rock Springs accountant has been sentenced to four months in jail for filing fake tax returns on behalf of Sweetwater County restaurant owners with the Internal Revenue Service.

Paul Edman, 53, was sentenced on June 7 in U.S. District Court, and his jail time will be followed by one year of supervised release. He pleaded guilty in March to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns.

In February 2017, agents from the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations interviewed Edman about several of his clients, Sweetwater County restaurant owners who were believed to be hiding cas sales.

After a thorough investigation, including the use of a grand jury and interviews, the government determined Edman had willfully counseled the restaurant owners in the preparation of a false 1040 form for calendar year 2014, knowing that the form was false.

Edman made significant adjustments to both personal and business expenses related to the family-owned restaurants to reduce their tax bill, which totaled nearly $645,000.

In emails, he recommended ways they could deduct expenses in a fashion that would not stand out in an audit. This communication was easily traced and proved that Edman willfully provided the advice in an effort to defraud the United States government, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

“All certified public accountants must be held to a higher standard when working with the taxpaying public in preparing income tax returns,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Andy Tsui. “By disregarding this duty and preparing a client’s tax return knowing it contained false deductions, Paul Edman is now a convicted felon and will spend time in prison for his criminal actions.”

Ultimately, Edman reduced the amount of his client’s tax bill by $72,000, signed and filed the tax return electronically.

“Some may argue that tax evasion is a victimless crime, but that could not be further from the truth. We all end up paying when someone unlawfully evades our tax system,” said Acting U.S Attorney Bob Murray. “Edman’s aiding and assisting certain clients file false tax returns is an outright theft of the American taxpayer.”

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Torrington Murder Case: Defendant’s Competency Questioned

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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

A case against a former Park County resident accused of murdering a Torrington woman has been put on hold, after questions were raised about his competency.

Last week, a judge ordered personnel from the Wyoming State Hospital to evaluate Sean L. Pettus and determine whether he is mentally fit to proceed.

Pettus, 32, is alleged to have murdered 20-year-old Madison Cook in April by stabbing and suffocating her. He is alleged to have later set fire to the building that housed his business and to have stolen a vehicle. Pettus is being held in jail without bond.

Police found Cook’s body on April 20, with trauma to her head, multiple stab wounds to her chest and a ligature around her neck, and say the evidence points to Pettus as her killer.

“The injuries to the deceased … demonstrate an extended and intentional series of actions taken by Pettus that required multiple steps and more than a brief moment in time to end the life of Cook,” Torrington Police Det. Rebecca Wakamatsu wrote in an affidavit supporting a charge of first-degree murder.

Police say that as they arrested Pettus, he made a series of strange statements. According to the Scottsbluff Herald, Wakamatsu testified at a court hearing last month that Pettus “thinks everyone in Torrington is against him,” thinks the city is filled with ninjas and reported hearing whispering in the adjoining business that he reportedly set on fire.

Not long after that preliminary hearing, Pettus’ court-appointed attorney, Jonathan Foreman, asked that his client be evaluated, saying there was “reasonable cause to believe that [Pettus] has a mental illness or deficiency.”

Deputy Goshen County Attorney Zach Leininger opposed the motion, saying the defense had provided “no evidentiary or factual basis to show reasonable cause to believe the defendant is unfit to proceed.”

However, Foreman pointed to the “symptoms” described at the preliminary hearing and indicated that Pettus has a documented history of mental illness. According to a filing, Pettus was previously diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been admitted to the Wyoming State Hospital multiple times.

On June 2, District Court Judge Patrick Korell ordered personnel from the state hospital to examine Pettus and determine whether he’s fit to stand trial.

Pettus and Cook had been in a relationship for months and had described themselves as married on their Facebook pages. Her family later told police there had been a pattern of violence.

Following an argument on April 17, Cook moved the majority of her items out of their shared apartment, charging documents say, but she returned the following day. She was last seen alive on the night of April 18.

Two residents of the apartment complex reported hearing a woman screaming and loud thumping coming from the area of Pettus’ apartment between 8:30 and 9 p.m. 

“The noises lasted for about 10 to 15 minutes,” Wakamatsu wrote, adding that Pettus admitted to being in the apartment during that time.

Around 9:30 p.m., police say, Pettus recorded a video in the apartment’s bathroom, holding a knife and a bottle of alcohol.

“… Pettus appears to be sober and lucid and looks into the camera and states at one point words to the effect [of]: ‘I don’t care if she hurts or not, this is going to happen. I probably got f—ing miles of f—ing footage,’” Wakamatsu wrote. “Pettus smiled when making this statement and then got in the shower. Pettus then stepped out of the shower and turned off the camera.”

Area residents told Torrington police they saw Pettus acting strangely over the next day. For example, Pettus’ landlord spotted him with a duffel bag containing antifreeze and gasoline, among other items. Police later found the bag, which held cleaning solutions, table cloths, paper towels, cloth towels, latex gloves and a hand saw — items that Wakamatsu said could be used to dispose of a body.

Shortly after 6 a.m. on April 20, a fire was reported at Pettus’ business and — after getting reports that Pettus had been spotted at the scene smelling strongly of gasoline — Torrington police went looking for him. When they entered his apartment, officers found Cook’s blanket-wrapped body in a bedroom, with a plastic bag and two T-shirts around her neck.

Cook was a Torrington native.

Pettus previously lived in Powell, Cody and Florida, among other places. He was paroled last year after serving prison time for a Powell burglary, in which he stole various items from an acquaintance’s apartment in 2016.

In addition to first-degree murder, Pettus faces charges of first-degree arson, theft totaling more than $1,000 and two counts of burglary. He has not yet entered a plea to the allegations and will not do so until the Wyoming State Hospital completes its evaluation. The report is due in 60 days, though extensions are fairly common.

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Lander Man Charged With Possessing, Distributing Child Porn Via Social Media

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Lander man has been charged with both possessing and distributing child pornography through a social media application, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court this week.

Garret Thomas Findlay, 23, of Lander, has been charged with one count each of possession and distribution of child pornography. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each charge, as well as a $250,000 fine for each count.

According to the court documents, in October, a tip was submitted to the CyberTip Report — a service that collects tips about possible crimes against children — about a user on the social messaging app Kik who shared 14 files of suspected child pornography with another user or group of users sometime between Aug. 26 and Aug. 28, 2020. All of the files depicted prepubescent girls being made to participate in sexually explicit content.

Kik supplied law enforcement with information about the user’s account, including IP addresses and that the person was using a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus cellphone to access their account through the Verizon network.

Law enforcement contacted Verizon, which provided a phone number for that particular phone, which was Findlay’s number. The company also confirmed Findlay had that same type of phone.

Officials tracked down one of the IP addresses to a residence in Laramie. There, they spoke with the property owner, who rented an apartment to Findlay from July to mid-December. Following this, Findlay moved back into his parents’ home in Lander.

Another IP address connected to the Kik account was found to be at Findlay’s mother’s home in Lander.

Police executed a search warrant of the home in early March, where they obtained Findlay’s cellphone and detained the man. He was transported to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, where he made several admissions to possessing child pornography on his phone, using Kik to send and receive child pornography and ultimately admitting the account under investigation was his.

When accessing his phone, investigators found 22 images and 10 videos of child pornography. Findlay advised the last time he viewed the material the previous night, when he’d received “some” images via the social media app Whisper.

He told agents he’d used Whisper numerous times to send and receive child pornography.

It was found that on or around March 1, Findlay used Whisper to send 18 images of child pornography to another user on the app.

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Wyoming Park Rangers Track Down Michigan Man Who Ventured Too Close to Old Faithful

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

It is 2,488 miles from Old Faithful in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park to Madison, Maine. One would think that would be a safe distance for a Michigan resident seeking to avoid a Wyoming court appearance.

And this might be true if any normal law enforcement agency were involved. But not for the intrepid agents of the National Park Service.

A Michigan man learned that lesson the hard way when he was arrested earlier this week in connection with a charge he ventured too close to Old Faithful last summer.

Like the man who selected Yellowstone as the perfect location for a golf shot, Aaron Merritt learned firsthand of the tenacity of the Park Service.

It’s a lesson the Park Service applies with vigor when it sees flagrant violations of the rules that make the country’s national parks special places, said Rob Wallace, who until January oversaw the National Park Service as the assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

“When people show up and do these crazy stunts and then advertise them, they’re basically flaunting what national parks are about, and perhaps encouraging other followers on social media, to one up and do something even more, you know, crazy or stupid or dangerous,” Wallace told Cowboy State Daily. “So I think the Park Service is selective about what they decide to pursue. But in cases that are pretty egregious, they want to discourage that kind of use.”

Merritt was cited for thermal trespassing after allegedly walked too close to Old Faithful on July 7, 2020.

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Merritt was wearing a raccoon fur cap and carrying an American flag when he allegedly stepped off the boardwalk at the park. He was 50 feet off the path and approaching the backside of the geyser when a park ranger called him back. Merritt was cited, and scheduled to appear in federal court two weeks later.

But he skipped out — so a warrant was issued for his arrest.

And on Monday of this week, the Michigan resident (who has since garnered a few facial tattoos) appeared remotely before a federal judge from the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, Maine.

Merritt is not the only person to face park justice. Jake Adams, a comedian who thought he could increase his social media following by hitting a golf ball in all 50 states, is now under investigation for hitting one near Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.

Wallace said special laws are in place to protect the country’s national parks and the federal government takes violations of those laws seriously.

“There’s different rules in a national park from a state park or BLM land,” he said. “You can’t take driftwood out of the park, you can’t grab a handful of flowers and take, take them apart, you can’t throw coins in the Grand Prismatic pond, for obvious reasons of corrosion.”

Wallace said it has been relatively easy to find such offenders when they speak about their exploits on social media.

“When they post their exploits on social media, that right away suggests how to find these people,” he said. “They leave clues all over the internet about what they’re doing, and it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out how to track them down.”

He added that the public plays a part in apprehending offenders as well.

“When you see reports from people that are doing things that are clearly out of balance, the public is pretty good in terms of grabbing a license plate number, taking a video, reporting it to the nearest ranger,” Wallace said. “So there’s lots of ways that information comes in. And in certain cases, the Park Service or the U.S. Attorney’s office looks at something and says, ‘That is so problematic that we’ve got to pursue this further.’”

Wallace adds that the Park Service’s relationships with other government agencies helps the process.

“The Park Service works very closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, because they are a federal agency,” he said, “and the U.S. Attorney, whether it’s in Wyoming or Maine, represents the interests of the Park Service, and looks at these cases, and makes a decision whether to take them or not.”

And when someone flaunts the rules and then disregards the consequences, Wallace says they just might find a U.S. Marshal at their door.

“They show up at their door, or they contact people and say ‘You’re in violation,’ and quite often people will cooperate,” he says. “A lot of it is ignorance. People don’t know what they don’t know. But then when they decide to put that ignorance in full display on social media, it catches people’s attention.”

“If people are smart and they are caught, they would likely agree to come back and appear before a magistrate and take their medicine,” he added.

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Wyo Attorney General Wants Agent’s Name Cleared In Censure Case

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to remove mentions of a law enforcement agent from an order censuring a Cheyenne attorney.

A petition filed with the court by the office of Attorney General Bridget Hill asked that the name of Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Jon Briggs be removed from the order censuring David Singleton, a former Laramie County district attorney.

In the report and a news release announcing the censure, Briggs was accused of making false statements during a hearing in the case of Laramie County hemp farmers charged with conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess marijuana and cultivation of marijuana.

But the motion said the Wyoming Board of Responsibility and the Supreme Court had no authority to determine whether Briggs engaged in wrongdoing and added the fact his name was included in the report has hurt his ability to do his job.

“While Agent Briggs may not have been the ‘target’ of action by the (BPR), the Wyoming State Bar and this court, he has and will continue to suffer serious consequences from the report and recommendation that was incorporated into this court’s order and the subsequent press release in this matter,” the filing said. “These statements may in all practicality mean an end to Agent Briggs’ career as a law enforcement officer.”

The case stems from charges filed in November 2019 against hemp producers Deborah Palm-Egle and her son Joshua Egle. 

Raising hemp is legal in Wyoming, but if it contains more than 0.3% of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — it is considered marijuana and is illegal.

At the time hemp samples were seized from Palm-Egle and Egle, a man working at their ranch showed Briggs test results from the crop that showed the plants contained less than 0.3% of THC. During a preliminary hearing in July 2020, Briggs testified he had seen a report at the time of the incident that showed the hemp contained more than 0.3% THC.

During a break in proceedings, the attorney for Palm-Egle and Egle contacted Briggs and Singleton to suggest they correct the testimony.

According to the BPR’s report, Briggs testified he had not read the email from the attorney and Singleton failed to correct the statement.

However, the motion said a DCI investigation revealed that Briggs did not make false comments about the email.

The investigation revealed that Briggs was on vacation when he received the email and he forwarded it without reading it to the attorney general’s office and Singleton.

Despite the DCI’s finding, Briggs “is suffering significant consequences” because his name was included in the report, along with the allegation that he made false statements in court, the motion said.

“Within 30 minutes of the Wyoming State Bar’s press release (about the censure), prosecutors began contacting Agent Briggs’ direct supervisor stating ‘I don’t want (Agent Briggs) on my cases simply because I don’t want him to be cross-examined about this,’” the motion said.

Briggs was never given the opportunity to defend himself against the allegations, was never contacted during the BPR’s investigation into Singleton and was denied the right to due process by the BPR and the court, the AG’s office wrote.

“This was not justice for Special Agent Jon Briggs,” the motion said. “This is not justice for any individual who, while not an attorney, is associated with the legal system and seemingly happened to draw the ire of Bar Counsel.”

Even though the BPR and Supreme Court had no authority to take against against Briggs, putting the allegations in the report amounted to discipline, the motion said.

“The (BPR), the Wyoming State Bar and this court’s jurisdiction … was limited to disciplining a member of the Wyoming State Bar — David E. Singleton,” it said. “While the this process did not impose ‘formal discipline’ against Agent Briggs, the report and recommendation and subsequent press release approved by this court have accomplished the equivalent of formal discipline.”

The motion asks that Briggs’ name and allegations against him be removed from the censure order, that a statement be made specifying the order is “not a finding or conclusion of any misconduct on the part of Agent Briggs” and that a news release be issued explaining that the censure order “is in no way a finding that Agent Briggs engaged in misconduct of any kind.”

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Driver in Fatal Sublette County Wreck Pleads Guilty To Aggravated Homicide

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By Joy Ufford, Pinedale Roundup

PINEDALE – Earlier this month, Jade S. Jewkes, of Jackson, signaled a change of mind – or heart – about going to trial for aggravated homicide by vehicle while intoxicated after she collided with a Pinedale man on New Year’s Day.

Jewkes was arrested Jan. 1 after her northbound Jeep Cherokee crossed Highway 191 and struck a southbound plow-truck driven by Shane Deal near Granite Creek Road, causing severe injuries. Deal died later that night at St. Johns Hospital in Jackson.

She was charged with two felony counts of aggravated homicide ­– one based on her having a blood alcohol concentration over .08 and one that she was intoxicated. Jewkes was also charged with driving while intoxicated. On March 10 in 9th District Court, she pleaded not guilty to the three charges and requested a jury trial. The trial was set to begin Sept. 20.

She was released on $150,000 cash/surety bond with restrictions on driving, drinking or contacting the Deal family.

However, on May 4, Pinedale attorney John LaBuda filed a motion to set Jewkes’ change-of-plea hearing “at the earliest convenience of the court and counsel.”

Judge Marv Tyler set the hearing for Thursday, May 27, at 3:45 p.m., requiring Jewkes to be “personally present at said hearing.” No other documents including a plea agreement were filed before the change-of-plea hearing.

Thursday, about a dozen family and friends accompanied Jewkes and attorneys LaBuda, Rives White and John Robinson into the 9th District Courtroom, masked but sitting close together behind the defendant. Judge Tyler asked them to confirm they did not want to be socially distant.

The Deal family watched the proceeding from home, appearing on the courtroom’s large-screen monitor tilted toward the defendant.

Judge Tyler asked everyone attending to refrain from speaking aloud or recording the hearing.

He addressed the defense table: “This is unclear to me because there are three charges, essentially what charges the defendant intends to change her pleas on?”

Robinson said, “There is no plea agreement in place. She will plead ‘cold’ to counts I and III and my understanding is the state will remove Count II.”

Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson called that “accurate.”

Judge Tyler questioned Jewkes’ understanding of maximum consequences of her convictions on the aggravated homicide felony and DUI misdemeanor – jail time of 20 years, six months and fines of $10,750.

“Are you sure you want to go forward today by pleading guilty to these charges,” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” she said.

Jewkes pleaded guilty and was sworn in to provide a factual basis by relating each element of each crime. She testified that she “drank too much and made a horrible, horrible decision – to drive to Jackson and I crossed over the centerline and hit a vehicle driven by Shane Deal and he died as a result of that decision.”

She said her BAC was .22 after drinking mimosas and other drinks she could not remember. Judge Tyler conditionally accepted her guilty pleas and ordered a presentence investigation report and substance abuse evaluation. That process could take six to eight weeks, he said.

“You may have to pay restitution as a result of the criminal conduct on your part,” he told Jewkes. “The victim’s family, for example.”

With “cold pleas” and no plea agreement, Crosson and Robinson will argue their recommendations for Jewkes’ sentences at a later hearing, with Judge Tyler making the final decision.

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Cheyenne Carjackers Sentenced to Prison After Posting Crimes On Social Media

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man and Colorado teen whose criminal exploits were tracked on social media have been sentenced to prison in connection with a violent carjacking in Cheyenne last year.

Oscar Alfredo Ortiz, 20, of Cheyenne, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of supervised release, while Jacob Nathaniel Hopkins Trigg, 19, of Colorado, was sentenced to nine years in prison and five years of supervised release in connection with the April incident.

They were each ordered to pay $5,089 in restitution and $200 in special assessment fees.

Last April, a man driving in southwest Cheyenne encountered Ortiz and Trigg while they were standing on the roadway.

After the victim stopped to help the men, Ortiz brandished a rifle and demanded the victim turn over control of his vehicle. Trigg pointed a handgun at the victim and demanded he empty his pockets. The two then ordered the man out of the car at gunpoint and fled in the vehicle.

The next day, the car was found in Longmont, Colorado. Witnesses saw the two men and a woman dump the vehicle and cover it with a tarp, an action also recorded by video cameras in the area.

Meanwhile, officers in Longmont were tracking the duo on social media and found several posts related to their crime spree, which also included a high-speed chase on Interstate 70 near Evergreen, Colorado.

The Colorado State Patrol ultimately stopped pursuing the vehicle after speeds reach more than 96 miles per hour in a heavy traffic area.

The FBI ultimately arrested the two following a search warrant of Ortiz’ Cheyenne home, where the firearms were also located. Both firearms were traced to the two men.

“I want to send a clear message to would-be carjackers: Committing a senseless act of violence like carjacking will earn you a home in federal prison for a long time,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray.  “This office and our law enforcement partners will always fight for crime victims and do our job to hold accountable violent criminals.”

The case was investigated by the Cheyenne Police Department, F.B.I., the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and Longmont Police Department in Colorado.

“Today’s sentence highlights the successful collaboration between the FBI’s Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force, Cheyenne Police Department, Longmont Police Department, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The CPD’s integration into the RMSSTF directly impacted the efficiency of the investigation,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “We work diligently with our partners to identify, investigate, and prosecute violent criminals such as Trigg and Ortiz to protect the public and keep our communities safe. FBI Denver is grateful for all our task force participants as these strong partnerships continue to bring justice to those who commit violent crimes.”

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Natrona County Sheriff Investigating Strip Club Shooting; Left Man In Critical Condition

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Natrona County Sheriff’s Department is currently investigating a shooting at a Casper strip club over Memorial Day weekend.

Around 12:30 a.m. Monday, the sheriff’s office received a 911 call regarding an adult man who had been shot in the parking lot of Northern Dreams, a strip club that is around 8 miles outside of Casper, NCSO spokesman Sgt. Taylor Courtney told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

The victim was taken to the Wyoming Medical Center with critical injuries, but he is now in stable condition.

While no one has been charged in the shooting yet, police executed a search warrant on a building in a residential area of Casper on Tuesday evening. One person was arrested during this time, but it was for unrelated charges.

There was a heavy police presence in the area where the search warrant was being executed.

Courtney couldn’t reveal much information about the shooting, the victim or a motive, as there is “still so much under investigation.”

“We have no specific information about a threat to the public at this time,” Courtney said.

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Torrington Man Accused of Uploading 102 Files of Child Porn to Internet

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Torrington man faces federal charges in connection with allegations he had more than 100 files of child pornography on his computer, with some images depicting children as young as 4 in sexual situations.

Andrew Bryan Culligan, 35, is charged with one count of transporting child pornography, which comes with a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison if he is convicted.

According to court documents, federal investigators received multiple cybertips from Google regarding an account that contained 102 files of child pornography on the company’s Google Drive and Google Photos system. Many of the files showed prepubescent girls engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Investigators traced the IP address of the computer where the files were uploaded and revealed a Torrington address. Google also provided information about one of the email addresses registered to the Google Drive/Photos account, which was tracked to Culligan.

During the investigation, it was discovered that Culligan is a registered sex offender, having been convicted in 2013 of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The computer used to upload the child pornography was traced to his home in Torrington.

In April, a search of the home was done and investigators interviewed Culligan’s girlfriend, whose name the home’s internet service was listed under. She confirmed to police that Culligan did use one of the email accounts reported through the cybertips and that he was “protective” of the account.

However, the girlfriend was allowed to use Culligan’s other email account, which was also reported in the cybertips, to file his taxes.

Culligan was contacted while the search warrant was being executed, and while he confirmed one of the email accounts reported was his, he asked for a lawyer. Investigators then terminated the interview.

Based on his admission, Culligan was arrested on a state charge of child sexual exploitation and transported to the Goshen County Detention Center. He was formally charged in early April, but posted bond two days later.

Also according to the affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, last week, Culligan’s girlfriend took her 14-year-old daughter to the local emergency room to be examined for assault after finding a letter Culligan to the girl.

In the letter, Culligan made sexual remarks to the girl and expressed a desire to impregnate her. The girl has disclosed “multiple” incidents between Culligan and herself, but this is still being investigated, the affidavit said.

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Gubernatorial Candidate Rex Rammel to Appeal Brand Inspection Conviction

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Rock Springs veterinarian who has been battling one of Wyoming’s brand inspection laws as unconstitutional plans to appeal his recent conviction on charges he failed to have brand inspections for horses he was moving between counties.

Dr. Rex Rammell told Cowboy State Daily he will appeal his convictions to hopefully force a change in the law he maintains violates constitutional guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure.

“If I don’t run out of wind before it’s over, I will prevail and the law will be ruled unconstitutional and the Legislature will be forced to take up the whole issue and modernize the law,” said the gubernatorial candidate.

The move will be the latest in a case that has gone on for almost two years because of delays caused by coronavirus and competing court orders.

Rammell’s conviction in circuit court in Pinedale last week came almost two years after a Sublette County Sheriff’s deputy pulled him over in June 2019 while he was moving horses from Rock Springs to Sublette County.

The deputy cited him for failing to have brand inspections for the horses in his trailer.

State law gives law enforcement officers the authority to “stop any vehicle carrying livestock, poultry or carcasses” so they can check for documents proving ownership of the livestock. 

However, Rammell, who has served as his own attorney throughout the case, argued the law is unconstitutional because it does not require that there be a reasonable cause for law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle. The vehicle only needs to be hauling livestock.

“The irony of the whole thing is when you are in the courthouse, you are innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “But the second you step out of the courthouse and put a horse in a trailer you are guilty until proven innocent.”

Rammell has argued throughout the trial that because his traffic stop was unconstitutional, the evidence collected against him during the stop — the lack of brand inspections — should be suppressed.

A Sublette County magistrate ruled in Rammell’s favor early on in the proceedings, but the county attorney appealed the decision and it was overturned — not because the decision was faulty, but because the magistrate was found to have been improperly appointed to his position. As a result, his ruling had no impact on the case.

Throughout the case, Rammell has not argued about the requirements for brand inspections, which prove ownership of livestock, but of the law giving law enforcement officers the right to stop vehicles without reasonable cause.

“I believe in brand inspections,” he said. “When people cross state lines, when there is a change of ownership, at sale barns, I am 100% behind brand inspections. But all of these unnecessary rules are burdensome, they’re unconstitutional and should be removed.”

The jury in Rammell’s trial convicted him on four counts of failing to have the proper brand inspections and the judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail and suspended the sentence. He was ordered to serve two years of unsupervised probation and pay fines and fees of $1,255.

Rammell said he will appeal the conviction to state district court, where he will be able to raise the issue of the constitutionality of the state brand inspection laws.

Rammell said he intends to follow the case through as far as he can.

“I’ve always been a principled man,” he said. “I’ve paid for I don’t know how many brand inspections that haven’t been necessary. I was just moving horses to pasture.”

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